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Strangers until recently, two former Duke stars ready to handle SF for Heat; Dolphins/Philbin; UM, Heat notes

WEDNESDAY BUZZ COLUMN 

Heat chatter off the start of training camp:

### The Heat always has shown an affinity for Duke players and now boasts a splendid synergy of Blue Devils at small forward --- current starter Luol Deng and the potential starter of the future (Justise Winslow), just 16 months removed from high school but already with an NCAA championship and an NBA body.

Deng and Winslow --- who both visited the White House this summer, Winslow with Duke’s title team, Deng to meet with President Obama about South Sudan --- never met before this summer.

“I want to take him under my wing,” Deng said this week. “I’ve been in this league for 12 years and I don’t have habits that will hurt him.

“What I really like about him is… you can see he’s very mature for his age (19).  His talent is amazing. He’s versatile. I don’t think physically he will struggle with the game.”

The 6-foot-7 Winslow, who has gained close to 10 pounds since leaving Duke and is now 230, said he made “a lot of progress” this summer in two areas where growth was needed: mid-range shooting and extending his range to the NBA three-point line.

“I’m hitting many of the [threes in practice],” he said. “I’ve become a better player in all aspects.”

Winslow was consistently able to drive by defenders during the Orlando Summer League. But can he do it against NBA competition?

“I’m very confident,” he said. “Of course summer league isn’t the same as the regular season. I feel it’s going to translate. But we’ll have to wait until the first game to find out.”

When Winslow was working out in the past month, Erik Spoelstra approached and started asking him these questions: Do you want to be great? Do you want to be a champion? Do you want to be a guy an organization can build around?

“Mentally, throwing those types of things at me is the best way to motivate me and get the most out of me,” Winslow said. “I’ll respond to yellers [too]. I played for Coach K. [Spoelstra] has been great. He’s trying to make me earn everything, not giving me anything.”

Spoelstra also told him this: “You don’t have to wait. You don’t have to get in line.”

The opportunity is there, but he must earn minutes. And if Spoelstra chooses to play only nine, he also can use backup shooting guard Gerald Green behind Deng. James Ennis also is competing for the backup small forward job.

“What [Winslow] has going is youth; he has a great conditioning level,” Spoelstra said. “He’s going to attack this camp and respect the veteran players by showing them no respect on the court. Production will ultimately tell [his role].”

Winslow said the first day of Heat camp felt like his first day at Duke.

He values having Deng in his ear. “He’s a good guy; he has been teaching me little things about playing on the perimeter. It has really helped out a lot,” Winslow said.

Deng, meanwhile, comes off a season in which he averaged the fewest rebounds of his career (5.2) and the fewest points (14.0) since his rookie season, though a slight reduction in minutes contributed to that. He also attempted more threes (220) than would be his preference.

“It’s very hard to judge what I could do from last year,” Deng said. “It was a year where you saw Luol Deng at his best, Luol Deng at his worst. [There] wasn’t consistency. 

“When there’s a lot of change of lineups, guys coming in that you haven’t had a lot of time playing with, it’s not my style of basketball” because he’s at his best when he’s cutting, where teammates know where he’s going to be.

“As long as we keep the group together and everyone is healthy and as deep as the bench is, you’ll see a more consistent me,” Deng said.

Spoelstra agrees: “Now that we have a full complement of players, I think you’ll see a much more versatile Luol Deng.  He knows how to adapt to different systems. I’ve told him we’re not going to put him in a box.”

Deng said he opted in to the final year of his contract, for $10.2 million, because “you opt out and have to go through the process again. I wasn’t ready for that. I was happy with what I see going on in here.

“With this team, if you take the names and lay them out, it’s a championship team. We’re going to be really tough to beat.”

The Heat also has a third Duke alum on the team: Josh McRoberts.

### We’re told the Heat is happy with its roster and is not pursuing Gerald Wallace or any other available veteran free agent.

### Magic Johnson also loves the Heat’s roster: “Looking at it now, only two teams from the East could win the NBA Championship – Cleveland and Miami,” Magic tweeted today.

### Some fans complained when Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Udonis Haslem and a few other Heat players joined LeBron James two weeks ago for a “Wade Field Day” bonding session.

To which Haslem says this: “People want to complain about LeBron leaving and how can we still hang out and be friends. But people don’t understand that without us being friends, we don’t win those championships.

“The friendship is why we won, why were able to endure being down against Indiana and being down against Boston or coming back against San Antonio. Those friendships, the bond that we had, is why we were able to persevere through the tough times. That’s the reason why we are able to continue to be together, but that’s the reason why people complain. You can’t have everything. I can see why they may be salty with him leaving but you can’t have an issue with us being friends.

“When we step on the lines, I’m going to compete as hard as I can against LeBron. If I have to take a charge, if I have to knock him down, it’s all part of the game. That has nothing to do with how I feel about LeBron personally off the court. We enjoyed a great four years of success together. You build a love that’s beyond basketball.”

CHATTER

Dolphins owner Stephen Ross, who often responds to e-mail, declined to answer when asked if Joe Philbin will finish the season as coach. Though an in-season change remains a possibility, one problem is Dolphins brass isn’t believed to be enamored with the idea of any of their top assistants becoming interim coach (though it might come to that).

### The Dolphins have been outscored by 91 points in the first quarter of Philbin’s 51 games as coach, including 27-3 this season. They’ve been outgained 482-107 in the first quarter through three games.

On Sunday, we mentioned players privately grumbling about the length and intensity of a recent practice. “Maybe we are doing a little too much,” Philbin said Monday. “Maybe our energy coming out of the gate isn’t good.”

But the poor starts also raise another player complaint that persists with Philbin: He doesn’t inspire or particularly motivate his men.

“I’m excited the Dolphins found a new month to quit on Joe Philbin,” Bill Simmons tweeted. “December was getting stale.”

### Current 53-man NFL rosters have 63 players who entered the league with the Dolphins, tied for sixth-most. So Miami is finding NFL players. But many aren’t good enough to make a big impact, and some aren’t being developed properly here and have more success elsewhere.

### The Dolphins signed former Missouri tight end/receiver Marcus Lucas to their practice squad, according to the team's web site. He spent last season with Carolina's practice squad. Linebacker Terrell Manning was cut... Remember linebacker Jordan Tripp? Jacksonville released him from its practice squad today... Ex-Dolphins kicker Caleb Sturgis found a job with Philadelphia this week... Andrew Franks' missed PAT Sunday was hardly surprising considering he missed eight in college at RPI.

### UM coach Al Golden said he wants to redshirt linebacker Jamie Gordinier (despite depth issues at that position), four-star defensive end Scott Patchan, defensive tackle Ryan Fines, safety Robert Knowles and offensive linemen Bar Milo, Brendan Loftus and Hayden Mahoney.

### Five-star Norland power forward Dewan Huell, who would be a huge get for Miami, visits the Hurricanes on an official visit this weekend. A close associate of Huell has long identified FSU as the front-runner, and South Carolina is the other top contender. But Miami still has a real chance here.

### Twitter: @flasportsbuzz   

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